“Black Widow” Special Look Review!

In what could technically be considered the second trailer for Marvel’s Black Widow but is instead being called the first “special look”, ex-KGB assassin Natasha Romanoff is forced to reunite a lethal team of trained killers to take on a new wave of Black Widows, and all the might of the villainous, government-operated Red Room program that created both them, and her.

This special look gives us a hint of what has spurred the events of the Black Widow movie, which take place after Romanoff went on the run following Captain America: Civil War but before Thanos’ invasion in Avengers: Infinity War. All the way back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Natasha made a brave decision to leak all of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agency’s deepest, darkest secrets (including her own) onto the internet in an attempt to expose the far-reaching corruption of organizations like HYDRA. In this teaser, Natasha seems to reference that, saying “I was trying to do something good” when asked why she’s suddenly being stalked and hunted by Russian operatives.

But Natasha learned a lot from her mentor Nick Fury, and one of his lessons must have been how to assemble a great team – because she’s got the help of some of the deadliest Russians ever to bear arms in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at her side in her fight: Yelena Belova, her “sister”, whom we still don’t see wearing her iconic spider-eye mask, much to my dismay; Red Guardian, (played by David Harbour, currently the only member of the main cast without an Oscar nomination in real life), who appears to be something of a father figure to Natasha; and the mysterious Melina, a white-suited martial artist who has a certain maternal charm in one scene, and then cold-blooded killer instincts in another.

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These four are up against the Taskmaster, who has a much better showing in this teaser than he (or she?) did in the movie’s first trailer, which earned him/her a bunch of criticism for looking like a Power Ranger in the light of day. Interestingly, all of his/her scenes here are at night – and they look fantastic. In the first trailer it was hard to tell whether the character (who in the comics is legendary for his “photographic reflexes”, which allow him to mirror any opponent’s fighting moves) was displaying his/her unique power-set, but here there can be no question, as we see the masked mercenary perfectly replicate not only Natasha’s moves as they fight on a Budapest bridge, but also those of Natasha’s dear friend Steve Rogers, even employing the Captain’s very same shield-tricks. In the comics, Taskmaster is typically a man named Tony Masters – but it looks like Marvel could be shaking things up, because a couple other characters in this same movie have already been shown to have skills like “photographic reflexes”: Yelena Belova copies Natasha’s moves as they fight in her shabby apartment, and Melina emulates the fighter’s classic superhero pose at one point – and the “new wave of Widows” all seem to move in perfect harmony. Considering that all these characters originated in Russia’s Red Room, another possibility is that Taskmaster is the head of the program, or even the very first Black Widow (who in some comics is also Natasha’s identical clone, if I remember correctly).

So what do you think of the trailer? Do you think it’s a good idea for Natasha to work with a team, or will they stab her in the back (figuratively or literally)? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 7.8/10

“Morbius” Trailer Review!

Is the Sony Spider-Verse adjacent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Well, there’s no clear answer to that question right now, and there’s unlikely to be one for some time yet, but for the moment I think we all have to admit that somehow Sony has managed to get some pretty good stuff out of their tumultuous deal with Disney/Marvel, and part of that includes the rights to use certain MCU characters that one wouldn’t normally expect to see in a rival studio’s film franchise. Not only are they supposedly working out a way to have Marvel’s Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, cameo in the upcoming sequel to Venom, but they’ve just sprung a big surprise on all of us and revealed that Morbius, their newest “in-association-with-Marvel” feature film, will mark the return of an MCU villain we last saw safely tucked away in prison.

As for the movie itself….well, it stars Jared Leto as the obscure Spider-Man villain with the powers of a bat: hunting for a remedy to his terminal illness, Dr. Michael Morbius stumbles upon a risky maneuver to save his life that involves…standing in a wind tunnel and letting bats drink your blood? Or something like that? Honestly, the specifics are a bit hazy, but predictably everything goes wrong and Morbius finds himself transformed into an insatiable vampire with the powers of echolocation (admittedly, very cool), night vision, and a bat-like appetite. Oh, and super strength, because that’s definitely something that bats have, right? And the whole trailer is set to Beethoven’s Für Elise because….reasons?

At one point in the trailer, it’s revealed that Morbius takes place sometime after the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, as we see the vampire walk past wall murals that show the hero’s likeness painted over with the word MURDERER, referencing Spidey’s mistaken-identity crisis that has him on the run from the media, the government, and a newer, nastier bunch of villains than ever before. But it’s one of his older villains who shows up in this trailer’s stinger, setting up a potential MCU/Spider-Verse crossover that actually looks kind of interesting: Michael Keaton’s Vulture, introduced in Spider-Man: Homecoming, is seen wearing his prison uniform while greeting Morbius with a cheerful “what’s up, Doc?” (which would make more sense if this film had any association with Warner Brothers, which it doesn’t). Not only does this mean that Vulture has probably escaped from jail, but it also suggests that both he and Morbius could be future antagonists for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. Then again, it’s hard to imagine the chipper, optimistic MCU Peter Parker battling this grim, ferocious beast of a man – but it’s also hard to imagine him battling Tom Hardy’s Venom, and that could become a reality very soon, so we’ll just have to wait and see whether Sony and Marvel can work something out, or whether this will turn into one of those weird setups for something that will never happen.

I’m sure we’d all love it if Jared Leto could carry this film on his own, but the film honestly looks just average, and only its connections to the broader Marvel universe are keeping it in the conversation for the moment. If Morbius turns out to be a sleeper hit with an avid fanbase, then obviously it’d be cool if the franchise could continue – a win for Morbius would also be a win for Sony’s Spider-Verse in general, which will soon debut feature films for other beloved Marvel characters like….like…like Madame Web, the inert and elderly oracle strapped into a life-support system who sends her pawns out into the world to accomplish her shady deeds! I’m looking forward to that, are you?

What do you think of the Morbius trailer? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 5/10

“Little Women” Non-Spoiler Review!

A century and a half has passed since Louisa May Alcott first set pen to paper and sat down to write the semi-autobiographical story of four sisters’ journeys towards adulthood, but the tale of the “little women” is still just as relevant and iconic nowadays as it was back in 1868. And visionary director Greta Gerwig has lovingly (and masterfully) crafted an adaptation of Alcott’s classic that is not only faithful to the original book, but more in line with both modern sensibilities and Alcott’s own feminist philosophy than any previous iteration.

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Gerwig has, first and foremost, chosen to tell the story in a non-linear fashion: while this decision may confuse the unwary (which is why I’m warning you in advance), it is a conscious choice that enables Gerwig to have what are essentially two stories simultaneously playing out onscreen, linked through flashbacks, flash-forwards, and what some may view as a bit of fourth-wall breaking – one story being the first half of the novel Little Women, covering the March sisters’ adolescence and happy, hazy childhood, awash in golden lighting; the other being the novel’s latter half, the grimmer, bleaker post-Civil War era, in which the March sisters have all grown up and gone their separate ways, and heroine Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) is beginning to more closely resemble Alcott herself. But while this might at first appear to be a narrative trick to keep the story compelling, it becomes clear in the film’s final minutes that there’s a shockingly exciting reason for the non-linear structure, one that will make Gerwig’s Little Women a topic for debate for many years to come. Keep your eyes peeled, for Gerwig drops plenty of clues and hints as to what’s coming in the finale, but you still might be caught off-guard if you’re not looking – or you might even miss it altogether.

Little Women is beloved because of its cast of extremely relatable and interesting characters, many of whom are best known to movie-lovers through the 1994 adaptation of the novel that starred Winona Ryder as the rebellious, free-spirited heroine, and a young Christian Bale as her love interest, charming, carefree Laurie. But Gerwig’s Jo and Laurie are slightly more modernized than the prim and proper couple of that film: Laurie, here excellently portrayed by rising star Timothée Chalamet, is a gentle, easygoing, and somewhat gender-neutral character who feels like the perfect soulmate to Saoirse Ronan’s socially awkward but passionate Jo – neither is entirely comfortable within the constraints laid upon them by their gender, but neither can do anything but fight the system in small ways – whether that means marrying for love or trying to establish their own place in the world. To reinforce the essentially gender-fluid relationship between the stars, Gerwig even had Ronan and Chalamet swap articles of clothing onset in order to break down the boundaries between them.

Personally, I’ve always been a huge fan of Jo March: it’s sort of a mandatory thing, I think, for most writers. We love her not just because of how sympathetic her daily struggles are, but because of how she chooses to use the written word as a weapon in her fight – hers is a pen far mightier than any sword.

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But Gerwig also allows the other March siblings to have their chance to shine: romantic, idealistic Meg (Emma Watson) is finally given a leg to stand on in her ongoing struggle with her character’s critics and detractors, who have always claimed she’s the least feminist of the sisters, and the most outdated in this modern age. Petty, vainglorious Amy (Florence Pugh) is actually respectable in Gerwig’s film – yes, she’s still a brat, but she’s also forced to grow up too quickly and bear a heavy burden upon her shoulders; she’s the only one of the March sisters who has a chance of marrying well, and for women in Alcott’s era, marriage was a woman’s only respectable method of achieving success. Amy’s speech to Laurie in which she details all the ways in which marriage is nothing but “an economic proposition” is one of the film’s most powerful scenes. Then there’s poor Beth (Eliza Scanlen), who is crucial to the story’s plot but still never quite rises above being the shy, pious outlier in the group without very much to say or do.

On the sidelines, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep have small but excellent performances as Marmee and Aunt March, respectively. Streep, especially, is a delightful addition to the cast with her biting wit, passive aggressive humor, and dainty mannerisms. Louis Garrel has the thankless job of portraying Professor Friedrich Bhaer, one of the most purposefully disappointing characters in Alcott’s novel, but he plays the role as well as he possibly can.

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Little Women is also an exceptionally beautiful film, with a myriad of dreamy, pastel-colored scenes that look almost like they leaped straight from the painter’s canvas onto the big screen (a special shout-out goes to cinematographer Yorick Le Saux, who apparently had the camera follow the Marches like a “fifth sister”, dancing and twirling with them on their youthful frolics and adventures, giving the audience a chance to feel even more connected to the close-knit cast). The production and costume design are superb: every detail of the March family’s dark, cozy homestead and every accouterment of high-society Parisian fashion is lovingly crafted.

Greta Gerwig deserves the Oscar for Best Director, and the fact that just this morning it was revealed that she is one of a multitude of talented women not on the Academy Awards shortlist for that honor is a travesty. What she has designed, directed and delivered is a love-letter to both Alcott’s novel and to Alcott herself, who was forced to play a part all her life and sacrifice her artistic freedom. A century and a half later, Gerwig has finally done justice to this author’s work in a way that seemed almost unimaginable to me, going into the theater. Little Women is an instant classic, despite how hard Hollywood will try to ignore or downplay this incredible work of art.

Movie Rating: 9/10

“Hawkeye” Delayed Indefinitely!

Marvel Studios’ Phase Four is sure to be just as successful as the previous three, and will almost assuredly rake in just as much, if not more, money for the studio and legendary producer Kevin Feige. So I don’t doubt that, no matter how much bad publicity may plague Phase Four right now, everything will work out just fine for Marvel and Disney: it always does. That being said, bad publicity is so rare for the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I think we should take a moment to acknowledge that, for the time being, the studio certainly seems to be experiencing some difficulties when it comes to crafting their next big master-plan, and piecing together dozens of converging subplots and story-threads. Just recently, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness director Scott Derrickson quit the project over “creative differences” and concerns that he wouldn’t be able to meet his deadlines. Tonight, the Hawkeye series on Disney+ is the latest Marvel project to experience setbacks, as it has been put on the back-burner and shifted off the studio’s busy production schedule, despite earlier reports that it would begin filming in July.

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No official reason has been given for the series’ delay, but it looks like Disney is trying to make room for alleged star Hailee Steinfeld to fulfill her current commitments to Apple TV before joining the superhero streaming series that will (supposedly) see her suit up as Hawkeye’s young protege, archer extraordinaire Kate Bishop. According to other sources, Disney is determined to win Steinfeld, but also isn’t afraid to move on from her, if she can’t work out her own schedule to accommodate both Hawkeye and her zany historical-fiction comedy Dickinson.

It is not being reported, but some fans are already speculating that the delay is in part caused by star Jeremy Renner’s own personal scandals, which erupted into the spotlight several months ago, leading to widespread concern (or excitement, depending on how you feel about the actor) that Renner would be recast, or written off the series, with the entire focus being redirected on his younger costar. This is not something that has come up since, but it’s still worth keeping in mind.

And, if the delay drags on with no start-date in sight, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D star Adrianne Palicki already has an idea for a substitute: the actress posted on her social media that Marvel has her phone number, and should take this opportunity to contact her with the intention of writing a streaming series based around her S.H.I.E.L.D character, Bobbi Morse a.k.a Mockingbird. I’ve speculated in the past that Morse, who has a strong connection to Kate Bishop in the comics, could be a fun supporting character on the Hawkeye series, especially played by Palicki – but I have to admit, Palicki’s own suggestion sounds even cooler (I’ve never really been a fan of Hawkeye himself, to be honest).

Considering that the series premise has only had a lukewarm reception so far, even with the casting of Renner and Steinfeld, it doesn’t look like anyone is going to be biting their nails in breathless anticipation, waiting to see when the show will finally go into production – but when it does, I’ll be sure to report on it.

How do you feel about the delay, and do you think Mockingbird should get her own series instead of Hawkeye? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Robert Aramayo Joins Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings”!

With production supposedly set to begin on Amazon Prime Studios’ The Lord Of The Rings prequel series in February, the streaming service has found a new lead to replace departing star Will Poulter: Game Of ThronesRobert Aramayo will take over the coveted role.

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There is no indication, as of yet, which role Poulter and now Aramayo are set to play, though the Tolkien fandom had largely arrived at the conclusion that Poulter, who bears a striking resemblance to actor Hugo Weaving, would be playing the younger version of Weaving’s Lord Of The Rings character, Elrond Half-Elven. Aramayo, on the other hand, is best known for his role as a young Ned Stark (also played by Sean Bean, who portrayed Boromir in The Fellowship Of The Ring) on the HBO fantasy drama Game Of Thrones, a character he played for just four episodes – I bring up that last point in an attempt to allay Tolkien purists’ fears that casting Thrones actors automatically indicates that the Lord Of The Rings prequel will be a knockoff of the former series, despite the fact that only two Thrones actors have thus far been cast in LOTR, and neither had any sort of substantial role on Thrones.

Aramayo’s casting is an exciting addition to the high-profile series, which recently cast Welsh actress Morfydd Clark as a young Galadriel in the epic fantasy, which will explore a period of time long before the events of The Lord Of The Rings, during the War of the Last Alliance, the heyday of the kingdom of Númenor, and the first downfall of Sauron. So far, Galadriel is the only named character to have been cast, though Aramayo’s character is being referred to by a codename, Beldor.

How do you feel about Aramayo joining the series? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!